What a week in Politics! Rishi Sunak will have made more enemies than friends with his reshuffle

What a week in Politics! Rishi Sunak will have made more enemies than friends with his reshuffle

Prime Ministers have a limited number of reshuffles in them before they get...reshuffled.

It’s down to the maths.

A number of ministers are promoted, overjoyed and loyal.

At the same time, a group of ministers are sacked or demoted, and for many of them their loyalty will fray, whether in days, weeks or months.

But there is also a bigger group of MPs who think, rightly or wrongly, that they are more able than the ministers who have just been promoted and that they have been overlooked.

A Prime Minister can offer hope to these individuals that one day in the future their turn may come, by promoting some new blood or bringing back a member of the old guard.

But the reshuffle maths ultimately mean that a Prime Minister makes more enemies than friends by shaking up his ministerial team.

In the short term, Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet will almost certainly be more united.

Gone is Suella Braverman, a source of trouble, and David Cameron is back as Lord Cameron and Foreign Secretary, a return from the political wilderness after his decision to hold a Brexit referendum, so he will no doubt be loyal.

But while Mr Sunak may see fewer rivals around the Cabinet table, he cannot rely on the enduring support of many of his own Tory MPs, partly due to the reshuffle.

Mr Sunak is a Rightwinger, but he is not hardline enough for some of his MPs on immigration, tax cuts and other issues.

During the Tory leadership contest, he did warn that Liz Truss’s economic plan would be disastrous...and so it proved, with bells on.

But the Right of the Tory party shouts loudest and some of the very MPs now pushing for a more draconian Rwanda plan, even if it brazenly flouts international human right laws and treaties, are still clinging to Trussonomics.

There are many MPs on the Centre and Left of the party less willing to take to the barricades to defend their views and beliefs.

Mrs Braverman suggestion, though, that legislation should be laid in Westminster to “exclude all avenues of legal challenge” so that international obligations, such as the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), are disapplied to an emergency Rwanda plan law, drew a ferocious response from Damian Green MP.

The leader of the One Nation group of Tory MPs described the proposal as acting as “Putin and Xi do”.

The Rwanda plan row eclipsed some moderately good news on the economy on Wednesday, with inflation falling to 4.6 per cent in October.

It is still painfully high for many households, struggling to make ends meet in the cost-of-living crisis.

But it did allow Mr Sunak to tick off having achieved one of his five key goals.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt may in his Autumn Statement next week be able to argue that the nation’s debt will be falling, meeting another of the pledges, though the one to get growth may prove more tricky.

He could also announce, or at least signal, some tax cuts, possibly to inheritance tax, given that he is expected to have billions more than expected in the spring in “headroom” after strong tax receipts.

But Mr Sunak’s promise to cut NHS waiting lists, currently above 7.7 million, could prove far harder to meet, as could his “stop the boats” vow.

His reshuffle, though, with the appointment of Lord Cameron and sacking of Home Secretary Mrs Braverman, as well as other changes, has pushed his Government back towards the Centre ground, which may be at odds with a sizeable chunk of his party but it is where elections are normally won or lost.

It makes it more difficult for the Prime Minister to portray himself as a “changemaker”, as he was seeking to do just weeks ago with his speech to the Tory annual rally, given that he now has a physical embodiment of the Cameron era sitting around his Cabinet table.

But the change of tack is likely to make it easier for him to reach out to Middle England at an election, even if it at the expense of some seats in the former so-called “Red Wall”.

Some Rightwingers are saying Mr Sunak should go to the country if his latest Rwanda plan is thwarted by the Lords, which given it is a revising Chamber is unlikely to happen, or by the courts, more likely after Britain’s top judges gave their very clear view in a damning ruling that his proposals so far were unlawful.

Lord Barwell, a former MP for Croydon and ex-chief of staff to Theresa May when she was PM, says some in the Tory ranks are “losing it” and that Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be delighted to have an early election.

It is still more likely to happen next autumn when Mr Sunak hopes the economy will have picked up.

But given the frenzied atmosphere at Westminster, a snap election cannot be ruled out.